The state of Goa, the former colonial Portuguese outpost for nearly 500 years, is home to white sand beaches, ancient churches, cobblestone streets and one of the most notoriously wild party scenes in the world. While vestiges of the hippie haven of the 1960s and 70s remain, the coastal state has plenty more to offer the intrepid traveler.
Day 1: Beach Bum
Honeymooners, backpackers and luxury travelers all flock to Goa with a plan to visit the beaches. Highly developed Calangute Beach is the place to be for a lively atmosphere and nearly any water sport you could dream of. If your ideal beach vacation involves more peace, spend the day lounging on the white sands of Palolem or Patnem. For sun and shopping, head over to Anjuna Beach for its weekly Wednesday flea market. Once the sun goes down, get in touch with Goa’s party roots with a night at Baga Beach, where the dancing and revelry continue well into the early hours of the morning.
Day 2: Historic Goa
Dig into Goa’s colonial Portuguese roots with a day in the current capital of Panaji (Panjim) and the former capital in Old Goa (Ela). Start the morning wandering the cobbled streets of Fontainhas and Sao Tome where the old mansions and church buildings date back to the mid-eighteenth century. After lunch, catch an auto rickshaw to Old Goa, once a great trading capital of Asia. Be sure to stop by the Basilica of Bom Jesus, home of the bodily remains of Saint Francis Xavier, founder of the Jesuit order and one of the first missionaries to visit India.
Day 3: Wild Goa
The waters of Goa’s coastline and rivers are teeming with wildlife and natural wonders waiting for you to explore while also offering a chance to escape the beach crowds for the day. New and seasoned divers alike can explore the underwater reefs and shipwrecks just off the coast or go further afield to the clearer waters of Netrani Island. If you’d prefer keeping your head above water, go for some bird watching at the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. Alternately, make the trek through Goa’s deciduous forests to Dudhsagar Falls, among the 100 highest waterfalls in the world and home to an abundance of flora and fauna.